Head of the Class: Butler boosts Harvest Park

Former PUSD vice principal steps into new role as interim principal

Starting her career in a district with fewer resources, new Harvest Park Middle School interim principal Jill Butler remembers spending time off work scouring used bookstores for reading material for her students.

When she arrived in Pleasanton nearly three decades ago, she brought two things with her: an appreciation for the resources in the city and the understanding that students from all walks of life can excel.

"I truly believe there's no child that doesn't want to succeed," she said. "It's our job as educators to help unravel that web around them."

Originally from Iowa, Butler started her teaching career in Southern California after college. She taught in the Port Hueneme School District in Ventura County for four years in a limited English-speaking school before moving to the East Bay to begin teaching in Pleasanton in the mid-1980s.

She taught at Alisal and Vintage Hills elementary schools before she started at Pleasanton Middle School in 1996. She taught for 16 years as a language arts and history teacher and served as chair of the Language Arts Department from 2000-2013.

Butler moved into an administrative role when she became vice principal at Pleasanton Middle School in 2013 and worked there for the past two school years. She was appointed as interim principal at Harvest Park as of July 1, replacing former principal Ken Rocha who was appointed director of education for Pleasanton's middle and high schools.

Her interim term ends June 30, and she plans to apply to become the school's permanent principal. A hiring decision is expected in time for the start of the 2016-17 school year.

Butler said she became an educator out of a desire to help children, especially those who were dealing with tough situations in their home lives that permeate into the classroom.

"It breaks my heart when I see kids struggle," she added.

She said she aims to promote a positive work environment since her attitude affects teachers, whose attitudes affect students. She said if your words come from the heart, kids can tell and know you really care.

As vice principal at Pleasanton Middle School, Butler said she was able to improve her leadership skills to the point where she'd be able to step into a principal role seamlessly.

She commended the city's PTA volunteers who have long supported Harvest Park and have provided invaluable resources and volunteer hours to help the school have a successful year.

"The partnerships here are really strong," she said.

Butler said the school year had a smooth start due to the veteran staff members and strong teachers.

"I just want to move them forward from here and continue their good work," she added.

A San Ramon resident, Butler and her husband have a blended family with five children total. When she isn't working, she said she's spending time with her family at the beach or traveling to an Oakland A's game. She said she loves interior design -- as shown by her colorful, organized office -- and dotes on her three toddler grandchildren whenever possible.

She earned her bachelor's degree from Cal State Long Beach and earned her master's degree in educational leadership from Cal State East Bay. She is a doctoral candidate at Cal State East Bay and will defend her dissertation this spring to earn her Doctorate in Educational Leadership. She also holds teaching and administrative credentials.

Butler earns an annual salary of $142,624 as interim principal of Harvest Park, which is located at 4900 Valley Ave.

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